Will anti-rape ordinance reduce recidivism?

it is more important for the government to ensure speedy trials & punishment, as certainty has greater impact on deterrence than severity of punishment

Sexual behavior pattern among human species vary from culture to culture. Cases of rape had also been recorded in pre-literate and pre-modern societies.  Men’s propensity to commit rape has been associated with different factors, for instance among pre-literate societies, rape attempts were mainly observed in the context of male competition for women. In modern societies, the main reason is presented to be the prevalent patriarchal family structure which presumably makes men to commit rape. Brown Miller's famous remark that rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear, can be viewed as an explanation to the aforementioned notion.

In Pakistan, there are different issues faced by marginalized groups. And one of the most prevalent inflictions faced by women and children is the unabating rise in rape incidents. In September 2020, the gang rape of a woman on Motorway in Punjab, sparked national outrage. People took out to roads and demanded justice for the victim and urged the government to take serious action and give policy guidelines to harness the aggravating rape cases. In November, a new bill was presented before the president. The key takeaways of the ordinance include; a countrywide registry of sexual offenders to be established with NADRA, chemical castration of repeat offenders, disclosing the identities of the victims to be a punishable offence, premier’s Anti-Rape Crisis Cells to be setup, establishment of special courts for speedy trials. 

The bill was presented before the federal cabinet with the assertion that castration will not be with the consent of the victim. This is a serious issue which needs to be discussed. According to some researches, the recidivism rates among sex perpetrators were low, but it also has other complications. Offenders who are castrated under coercion (without consent) might, for example, illicitly obtain testosterone or other anabolic steroids in order to reverse the effects of castration. 

There is another factor related to it, sometimes the crime of rape is committed by sex offenders out of the desire for power over others. Chemical castration may serve to lower the sex drive, but it is not evident that it will erase these motivations for sex crimes. Furthermore, a sex offender may deepen his aggression when he contemplates his loss because of chemical castration, possibly increasing the probability of further volatile situations.

In any case, professionals have argued that castration is not a good solution to decrease recidivism among rape perpetrators. Moreover, in Pakistan everyone has this preconceived notion in their minds that no matter what crime they commit, they can escape the shackles of law. Hence, it is more important for the government to ensure speedy trials and punishment to the offenders, as certainty has greater impact on deterrence than severity of punishment. 

The writer is student of Sociology at University of the Punjab, Lahore. She is interested in socio-political dynamics and can be reached on Twitter @beenishfatima63